Something is rotten in the state of Wisconsin and it smells like factory farms, or concentrated animal feeding operations, and the legislation and regulation that support their existence. Our watersheds are polluted, wells are poisoned, lakes and rivers are drying up. Green Bay has a recurring dead zone 30 miles wide and the air in rural communities with factory farms is poisoned with hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and fine particulate matter.

There are currently 240 permitted CAFOs and an additional 44 CAFO permits awaiting approval in Wisconsin; in spite of what Judge Jeffrey Boldt calls "massive regulatory failure" in an October 2014 ruling asking the DNR to modify a discharge permit for Kinnard Farms, a dairy factory farm in Kewaunee County. Kewaunee, on the shores of Lake Michigan, has 16 CAFOs, 98,000 cows and well over 1.5 million TONS of manure that’s land spread every year. It’s no surprise that 30 percent of the private wells are polluted in Kewaunee, and in the town of Lincoln, that percentage climbs to 50 percent.

An Iowa hog factory farmer has filed an application with the DNR for a farrowing (birthing) facility that will house 26,000 hogs and their 10 million gallons of manure (per their application dated February 2015) in Bayfield County. The proposed factory farm will be sited in the Fish Creek Watershed, less than eight miles from the Chequamegon Bay and Lake Superior. And there is nothing in the existing legislation or regulations that will prevent Bayfield from becoming the next Kewaunee, with its polluted wells, watershed and streams.

And that’s why we are headed to Madison.

The Stink-In on the Capitol Steps is the first time we will stand together and ask our elected officials to listen to citizens who are fighting to keep their communities safe from the dangers posed by factory farms. We extended them the courtesy of our attention when they were campaigning and asking for our votes, and now we are asking for their attention to the very serious problem of poisoned water, poisoned air and impoverished rural communities due to the continued permitting of CAFOs in Wisconsin. We want to work together to figure out how we got here and how we’re going to get back to the Wisconsin that we all love. This is not our Wisconsin and we, citizens and elected officials, must stand shoulder to shoulder and develop a solution that protects our right to be safe in our homes, have clean water to drink and clean air to breathe.

The Stink-In will be held on the State Street steps at the Capitol on Saturday, Nov. 7, from 1-2:30 p.m.

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Mary Dougherty, of Bayfield, is co-founder of the Wisconsin nonprofit organization Farms Not Factories.

Clarification: The statistics provided for wells in Kewaunee County and town of Lincoln are from a yearly voluntary private well-testing program.

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